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Pharmaceuticals Compromise the Quality of Your Drinking Water


Pharmaceutical drugs — they help our headaches, treat our upset stomachs, and allow us to sleep at night. But they also are contaminating our water supply as what the Environmental Protection Agency classifies “contaminants of emerging concern.”

A contaminant of emerging concern is a natural or manmade compound that scientists have recently proven to have a harmful or toxic effect on organisms in their local habitat. Pharmaceuticals have been commonplace for almost 200 years, with their widespread use established during the Civil War.

All medicine has side effects, and the cumulative effect of human and animal waste containing levels of antibiotics and other drugs is altering our water quality.

Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) are being detected at low levels in surface water at increasing rates, according to the EPA. The main concern with surface water is the potential hazards these chemicals and products pose to aquatic life. The EPA has yet to determine a protective level or federally recommended limit for PPCPs, as the organization and society as a whole is just beginning to understand the impact of pharmaceuticals in our soils and waterways.

Health Hazards of Pharmaceuticals

The effects of pharmaceuticals in waterways are still being researched and studied today. It is known that a low level of pharmaceuticals in freshwater can act as an endocrine disruptor for marine life that comes in contact with PPCPs. Higher concentrations of PCPPs in drinking water can have the same effect on humans.

When endocrine disruptors enter the body many health problems can occur. Hormonal imbalance is the most common health effect, which itself can lead to infertility, an increased risk of developing autoimmune disorders, and a greater risk for ovarian and prostate cancers.

PPCPs enter waterways in part via the wastewater from manufacturing centers where pharmaceuticals are made. They also exist in human and animal excretions. Removing pharmaceuticals from the water supply is difficult using traditional water treatment methods.

Studies have demonstrated that potentially harmful pharmaceuticals like amoxicillin can work their way into the root systems and leaves of the crops being irrigated when treated wastewater is used for agricultural irrigation. This demonstrates the ability of pharmaceuticals to have long-term ramifications after entering the water supply.

A study conducted by the EPA in 2014 showed that 25% of active pharmaceutical ingredients were found in substantial quantities at 50 different wastewater treatment facilities. At most sites medication for high blood pressure was detected in the largest quantities.  While the complete effects of ingesting medications in your drinking water are not yet known, early studies indicate that severe health problems are possible.

What You Can Do

Aquatic wildlife have little protection against the chronic health effects of exposure to pharmaceuticals, but you can take simple steps today to protect your family from hormonal imbalances and other problems.

A whole house carbon filter is the best defense against pharmaceuticals in your water. A 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System that filters out harmful chemicals and contaminants to deliver pure and refreshing drinking water to your home is second layer of protection. The Pelican 6-stage RO is certified to remove arsenic, chromium, cysts, fluoride, lead, and TDS effectively from your water.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter